Thursday, November 5, 2009

Layovers in Shemya with Phyllis Tack Curry

Shemya 1947
Quonset "Hotel" on Shemya

Phyllis Tack was her maiden name. Her father took the family out to Wold Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis to watch the airplanes when she was a kid. He thought the Ford Trimotor was "the greatest thing." One day when she was about 14 years old, she saw the door open and a stewardess hand some papers out. She decided then and there that that was what she wanted to be when she grew up. She and a friend rode their bikes to the airport and went in the coffee shop looking for a stewardess. Phyllis wanted to stand next to one to find out if she was "too tall."
When she was 19 she went to the NWA offices at the airport looking for a job. She talked to the legendary Rosie Stein, the Chief Stewardess. Phyllis says Rosie put her arms around her and said "you go back home and wait until you are 21. In the meantime, get all the education and social experience you can." Phyllis was devastated. "I wanted it so bad," she says.
Did she dream that just a few years later she would be spending layovers in the far North on a remote Aleutian Island?
The crew accomodations in Shemya were quonset huts. The stews shared a little sitting room and each girl had her own bedroom. The purser, pilots, flight mechanic, navigator and radio operator were in other "hotel rooms." The weather was often so bad a bus had to pick them up at their huts and run them to the mess hall for meals. Phyllis complained, "and they always parked the DC-4 about a block away from the shack." (Shack in Shemya-speak meant the terminal building.) As she lunged into the weather, fighting her way through the brutal winds and stinging snow towards the airplane, Phyllis wondered if her mother would still consider this a glamour job "if she could see me now."
Next post: Rested crews press on to Tokyo.


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